S. E. McKinley
As a child, I kept trying to write stories on my parent’s typewriter and those stories consisted of a lot of what would probably be called fan fiction. They were attempts at creating the same stories I would watch on TV, or read in comics. Through junior high and high school I would find myself detached from a class, so I'd do the writing equivalent of doodling. Nothing ever came of those stories since they were attempts to kill time when I didn't have a book or an interesting class to pay attention to.
It wasn't until college when I woke from a very vivid dream that stuck with me, because in it I wasn't me and the world wasn't what it really was. Usually in my dreams, I'm firmly grounded in the real world, places I'd really been and doing things I'd really done. But this dream took me to a place similar to the ones I'd only visited in books and in movies. So I spent the rest of the day telling everyone who would listen to me about the crazy dream. The responses almost universally consisted of 'that sounds silly.'
By the end of that day, I had decided that dream would be my first real novel. Though being a physics major instead of an english or creative writing major, made it difficult to work on. Then graduate school in teaching and of course, my job as a teacher provided plenty of excuses to not put my full energies into that novel. After sixteen years of working on it here and there, I finished it.
Over the last few years, I've continued writing when I find the time. Usually during summer or spring break from school, I manage to find the time and emotional energy to write, and I've noticed that in my writing over the last few years, I've been able to create characters far more relatable, and real, than what appears in that first novel, and though I often blame my job as a teacher for not having that necessary time and emotional energy, it may very well be responsible for an increased empathy I need when telling my characters stories. As a teacher, I interact with countless new people every year. Every possible background, personality, talent, aspiration, or character flaw walks through my classroom during the course of a school year. I believe seeing and interacting with so much diversity helps me relate with my characters and to allow them to come to life on the page.
Even though I write far less frequently than I would like, I find that I’ve been more productive when I do manage to find time to plop down in front of my laptop. I’ve heard of the reclusive writer who sits sequestered from the world pounding out page after page of gold, and I often dream of the opportunity to spend a life writing, hidden away from the world. However, I don’t think I’d have as much to say if I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet and help so many people on the level that I’ve managed to as a teacher and I know that I wouldn’t have the ability to understand what my characters have to say if I hadn’t learned to understand my students. I hope my readers have as much fun empathizing with my characters as I do.
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